#FridayFlash: Box of Rox


Diamonds are Rocks


“Dumb as a bag of hammers.” Harvey Feasler snorted, pointing at her.

“No, dumb as a box of rocks!” The other kids howled laughter when Monte Lyman spoke up.

Roxanne heard them in the distance. They weren’t far away, but if she listened, she’d hearseefeel everything. They stayed in the distance like all the other stimulation. Mr. Sattler called her name, but got no response. He waved from a few feet in front of her and waited there. He was safe that way.

Easing him into a space of her awareness, easing him out of the miasma of colornoiselight, Roxanne took a slow breath and prepared to engage in conversation. “Good morning, Mr. Sattler.”

“You having a good morning, Roxanne?” She searched his face for cues. A slight smile, widened eyes that might be happy rather than scared, hand palm up. That last one confused her, but he seemed to be friendly. He always did.

Trying to mirror his expression, she looked a little frightened when she responded, “It’s good.” She was busy making the colornoiselight absorb the children’s continued laughter and chanting. Was that concern on Mr. Sattler’s face now? “Thank you for asking,” she belatedly finished. His face slackened into what she recognized as calm. Filing away the information, she tried to offer a calm smile back.

Knowing better, he didn’t chatter with her on the way to her classroom. His position of authority quelled most of the abuse heaped on the poor girl. She seemed oblivious to it, even when a rowdy jock called out, “Lookie now, here comes the box of rocks!” Sattler didn’t understand her lack of reaction, not really, but decided it was a small mercy. When he held the classroom door open, Roxanne hesitated only a moment before awkwardly sidling into the room. That’s progress. He nodded, waved to the Spectrum Class Block, and quietly closed the door.

“Dumb as a box of rocks, my butt,” he muttered before shooing late students toward their classrooms and sending the rowdy jock to the principal’s office. Not a very glamorous job, being middle school vice principal.

Standing at her locker in the SCB, Roxanne peered into the shadowy space and frowned. Miss Emily watched her shrug her shoulders and knew it had nothing to do with dismissing a thought. Roxanne didn’t do that. She couldn’t do it. Giving the girl a wide berth so she didn’t startle her, Miss Emily waited patiently to be noticed. Roxanne stopped shrugging and shaking her head. She waved to her teacher and waited.

“It’s too warm for a sweater or jacket, Roxanne. You don’t have one to put in your locker,” she explained patiently. Watching the girl process the information and then light up with relief made happy bubbles dance in Miss Emily’s belly. It’s times like this when Roxanne gave a spontaneous smile, eyes alight with understanding and connection, Miss Emily knew Roxanne was meant for more than the SCB had available.

Settling in at her seat alone at a table, Roxanne began her customary decompression with paper and pencil. Miss Emily left her to it and circulated in the classroom. Nearly each student had a personal teacher’s aide who helped with monitoring and helping them with their tasks. Roxanne was able to work with little supervision, only a reminder to focus on the worksheets or computer from time to time. As she passed Roxanne’s table, Miss Emily noted the girl wasn’t writing equations as expected. Words filled the page.

She got Roxanne’s attention with a little wave from several steps away. After getting a wave back, she sat across from the girl. “May I look at your paper?” Roxanne looked blank and nodded. Nearly every line of the page held the words “box of rocks.”

“You are writing very well, Roxanne. I have a question.” She paused until Roxanne tilted her head slightly. “What is a box of rocks?”

“Dumb,” the girl replied flatly.

Miss Emily caught herself, stopping the frown before it could form. “May I show you something?” Roxanne tilted her head. Extending her hand over the table, Emily showed her rings. She pointed to her engagement ring. “Do you see this?”


“It is shiny, yes. It’s called a diamond.”


“Diamonds are rocks, Roxanne. They’re bright and shiny.”

Roxanne tilted her head one way and then the other slowly before her shoulders relaxed and she put down her tightly gripped pencil. “Diamonds are bright.”

“Right. Diamonds are bright. Diamonds are rocks,” Miss Emily nudged.

“Bright as a box of diamonds,” Roxanne said slowly.

Miss Emily smiled, her head tilted slightly to engage Roxanne more closely. “That’s very good. Bright as a box of diamonds.” She gave a little nod. After a moment, so did Roxanne. “Would you like another sheet of paper?” Another nod, another piece of paper. This time, the equations flowed.

When Mr. Sattler walked her to the bus as he did at the end of each school day, she walked along quietly as always. The colornoiselight was thick. “Dumb as a box of rocks,” Monte shouted from down the hallway, ignoring the vice principal’s presence in his enthusiastic delivery.

The voice squeezed out of the colornoiselight and Roxanne heardsawfelt it. She stopped after a couple steps. In an even tone, she commented, “Diamonds are rocks. Diamonds are bright.” Continuing on her path, she was unaware of Monte’s face turning red as the other kids heckled him about getting burned back.

Mr. Sattler didn’t understand, not really. He decided he didn’t have to understand. “Very good, Roxanne,” he told her.



Inspired by my younger son, who has autism, this story is presented for Autism Awareness Month. The character of “Miss Emily” is a tribute to one of my son’s favorite teachers. Although he’s an adult, he remembers his elementary school teacher often.

Everyone on the autism spectrum is different, but all face challenges, as do their families and friends. Please know your kindness is deeply appreciated. 


Casting Call


My Cast Was Pink



Our heroine got her cast off Wednesday after breaking her wrist six weeks ago, dear Reader.

Very lucky in that it was my non-dominant hand. I could type well enough with the first cast to keep up occasionally on Twitter. The second one was tighter and went further up my hand, keeping the knuckles from bending enough to type. One handed typing was possible, but frustrating. Naturally, I found speech to text in Windows this past Monday. Grf.

A better, more determined writer than I would have overcome it all, no doubt. Between the pain and hurdles typing properly, writing seemed out of the question. I touch type rather quickly. Many keys on my keyboard are blank now, I discovered. Picking about on the keyboard for the right key, backspacing repeatedly, and muttering curses added up to me giving up on the idea of writing. Writing anything, really. The few emails I wrote, always late, were merely a few lines with little capitalization. Writing a story or, even worse, trying to edit one? Right out.

Suffice to say I was dreadfully aware of what I could not do in all areas of my life. Not an boon given a bad mood already going on and bad stuff in local and world events.

Now I’m in a hard brace which was custom molded and is held on with a velcro strap. I’m home from the hospital for the… fourth? fifth?… time since I broke my wrist and am feeling more optimistic. My larger challenges for right now are a) figuring out what to write and/or edit and b) resting my wrist often enough that I don’t overdo it while writing. Maybe a timer for when I’m at the keyboard? I’ll borrow Son’s R2D2 kitchen timer. Excellent idea, dear Reader. Thank you.

What sorts of excitement have I missed in your lives? Any wtg to pass on? Maybe you could use some good thoughts passed your way. I’d love to join. Please let me know. Either way, please be aware you’ve been missed and I thought of you often. In a good way, I promise.



Not a New Year’s Post

Not a New Year's Post by JC Rosen

This is not a New Year’s resolutions post. Really. It’s just bad timing, so it looks like one.

It’s been a rough patch. I didn’t complete NaNo because of rolling illnesses, not the least of which had me hospitalized for over a week. I’m not going to complete the final total rewrite of a certain novel as I planned. My home is a pit. Granted, given the circumstances, all these things and more are understandable. They contribute to my general sense of discouragement, though.

Rather than wallow (okay, so I wallowed – I’m moving on), I tried to look at my life with realistic expectations. I figured it was the springboard for any goals and plans. Makes sense, right? Easier than it sounds.

When being brutally honest with myself, I focus on the brutal part or shy off the realities as they are. Happy mediums are challenging. When I feel like being brutal and I rein myself in, I feel like I’m being a Pollyanna. When I’m ignoring things and I try to be more aware, I become a stubborn ostrich. Either way, my natural instinct is to fight being dragged out of my ridiculous truculence.

As I write this, I feel weak from a combination of illnesses and the side effects to a medication. It would be easy to put off dealing with this issue. I’m starting to think perhaps this is an opportunity to make the most of a bad situation, though. My natural instincts to fight against logic are fuzzy from exhaustion. It may be a slog, but I’m coming up with what seem to be realistic expectations.

Problem I keep tolerating: Son is fixated on playing online video games during his holiday and I can do little, so the apartment is becoming even messier.

  • Proposed Solution: Change tactics. He likes to cook, so I got him an R2-D2 kitchen timer. I’ll make an agreement with him to set the timer for a one hour block of work a couple times a day. It’s amazing what he can get done in a short time with his music blasting. I can do a little bit at the same time and then do little things he missed along the way.

Problem I keep tolerating: Finances are out of control.

  • Proposed Solution: Get organized and get them the hell under control. A recent huge reduction in our monthly budget will create huge problems if I don’t stay on top of things. I’ll get a few inexpensive tools and create a system for keeping track of bills and payments rather than the haphazard system known as barely controlled chaos.

Problem I keep tolerating: I’m not writing.

  • Proposed Solution: Write. Gee, that sounds simple, doesn’t it? Well, it is. Yes, I’ve been sick and it often makes writing pretty impossible. Even when I could push myself to write something, anything, I didn’t write because it wouldn’t be good enough. Good enough? By whose standards? Who the hell am I, some literary phenomenon who churns out awe inspiring prose every day? Feh. Okay, that was a little of the brutality sneaking in. In simple terms, I must write whatever I can, when I can. I must set goals and be prepared to make them fluid enough to both challenge me and respect conditions as they exist.
  • I will work on the final rewrite of the novel with an aim to completing its first draft by the end of January 2015. Beyond that, I will set first edit and send to betas goals as appropriate. I’ll also try to blog again, perhaps even doing a flash fiction or two in the next month.

My energy reserves are used up for the moment, so no more. It’s more than enough to begin the process of decrapifying my life.

As for New Year’s resolutions? I don’t do them. Really.

photo credit: andres.thor via photopin cc

#NaNoWriMo: How I Survived My NaNo’s Death


Embracing the Spirit of NaNo


Our heroine is plagued by an annual NaNo Curse, dear Reader. Everything from pneumonia to chronic migraine has hit me in November, making me work all the harder to reach my goal for NaNoWriMo. Despite the Curse, I have always hit the goal line, sometimes by the skin of my teeth.

This year? Not so much.

The Curse started early and stayed late this year. I cleared several hurdles, but the biggest obstacle came in the form of extended ER visits and hospital stays. Since I’ve been home, I enjoyed an ambulance ride, had to go back inpatient briefly, and am giving myself IV antibiotics at home. A barrage of home nurses visiting and the expected journeys to doctors’ offices take up much time.

It leaves little time for writing.

I talk and post about “The Spirit of NaNo” every year.  I tell wrimos they’re winners because they write what they can when they can as they navigate the obstacle course of their busy lives. I believe it to my toes. This year, I embrace it on a personal level. For the first time in years, I got nowhere near the 50k. Sure, I could have cheated and got my 50k of nonsense validated. That isn’t why I participate in NaNo, though. I do it to enjoy the balls-to-the-wall writing experience. I may not have had a lot of that energy writing this year, but I dove in when I could.

That’s the Spirit of NaNo. My NaNo novel died, but I survived. I feel like a winner because I held onto the philosophy behind NaNoWriMo. That’s the basis of any goal I set going into NaNo each year.

How did you do?

#NaNoWriMo: The Spirit of NaNo


The Real Spirit of NaNo, by JC Rosen

It’s November 10th. We’re now in the thick of NaNoWriMo.

Many shook their heads and threw up their hands during that first week. I can’t blame them. NaNo is a big challenge. The first few years I peered down that trail toward the goal line, it was so far away, it was nearly invisible in the distance. I miserably gave up within days the first two years and just plain skipped it the third. It was so bad, I don’t even remember the years – I repressed the whole thing.

Doesn’t sound like much of a pep talk, does it?

Here’s the pep part: I won the first time in 2008 when I finally tried again. I won a week early! I almost put away my keyboard five days into it, though. I was sick and miserable. The last thing I wanted to do was write a million words each day. A good friend refused to let me give up. “Just write something today. I don’t care if it’s 300 words. Write something.” So I did. Then I crawled back into bed with my cold medicine and my teddy bear. When I woke up, I hazily did it again. A few days later, I was healthy. I was behind, sure, but I kept writing. With a little extra each day, I could catch up.

Need more pep? All right, you asked for it: my NaNo Soapbox.

Ladies and Gentlemen, behold the Spirit of NaNo!

Look beyond the fifty thousand word goal. It is not that shininess. No indeed, it is within you already. You have only to let it free and let it flow.

Does that sound ridiculous? Stay with me a minute.

It’s the Power of Writing, my friends. Just feel The Power of Writing, let it flow through you, let it catch up your imagination and run out your hands without the demon of the Inner Editor making you second guess it! That is indeed the Spirit of NaNo. Grab that and you’ll JUST WRITE. Here’s the secret: write every day, make a habit of it and you’ve won the real shiny prize.

If you commit to writing when you can, writing around your obstacles toward a goal you set for yourself – that’s how you embrace the Spirit of NaNo!


Stick with it, everyone, and may you all win the Real Shiny Prize.

photo credit: Anant N S (www.thelensor.tumblr.com) via photopin cc

#NaNoWriMo: Beyond the Words

 NaNoWriMo: Beyond the Words by JC Rosen


Whether prepping for or deep in the depths of NaNoWriMo, we tend to focus on word counts and stifling the inner editor. Don’t get me wrong. These are important issues. The latter helps with the former and the former is what gets you beyond that official finish line.

Let’s talk about what you can do to improve your experience. These are techniques which have little to do with plotting and wrangling words. These are meant to rejuvenate your energy stores, to lift your spirit, and to freshen your sense of purpose. They make it so much easier to do the stifling and the writing.

Simply put, I’d like you to consider what you can do for your comfort and pleasure. Self-care is greatly overlooked, especially during NaNo. We wrimos tend to develop tunnel vision and I’m telling you, it’s easy to feel the walls crowding you when you’re in a tunnel. What do you do when you’d like to treat yourself? Not a spa weekend, but rather a small pick-me-up. How do you like your environment so that you’re not distracted by it?

If I didn’t make lists for these situations, I’d get lost in the tunnel vision. I make two lists: Get and Do. I enlist my kids in helping me so the Getting and Doing don’t become chores themselves. Asking those close to you to help prepare you for and refresh you during NaNo also reinforces how important it is to you. One stone, two birds there.

I’m wary of stereotyping genderwise, so my disclaimer is these are examples which work for me. YMMV. I hope some of them inspire you to finding your own way out of the tunnel vision.

Under GET:

  • Crepes on NaNo Eve (at least!)
  • Good coffee and creamer
  • Warm socks
  • Fingerless gloves (I tend to write when it’s cold.)
  • Peppermint lotion (It’s as invigorating on the hands as it is on the feet.)
  • Good microwave meals and/or easy meal supplies
  • Incense
  • New nail polish

When you make your list, keep in mind the little incidentals. Will you need change for laundry machines? Getting quarters means one big step I can skip at laundry time.

Under DO:

  • Fresh linens on the bed
  • Clean bathroom
  • Do laundry (Yes, these are chores, but they make my life easier and more pleasant.)
  • Find comfy sweaters
  • Give myself a manicure (or go out and get one)
  • Crank up the music and dance and/or play air guitar (or a real one!)
  • Spend some time with family and pets
  • Watch some entertainment (WARNING: Do not start a tv series. Far too easy to binge.)
  • Read a book. (I strongly recommend setting a timer, but this is one of my favorite items.)

What helps you cleanse your writing palate? Maybe cooking a special meal or going for a run? Just as important, you can list items just for fun, ones which aren’t really options.

  • Buy that Jaguar and take a ride down the mountain to see the leaves
  • Have a fun evening at the local with <insert celebrity name here>
  • Pitch a no-hitter during a crucial game in the World Series

When you feel a little frantic about writing, your writing gets bogged down. Lighten the mood and your outlook by looking at your list and picking something you enjoy. Taking a little time away from writing may be just what you need to get your head back in the game.

What is on your list? Please share and inspire other wrimos at the same time.


photo credit: nicola.albertini via photopin cc

#NaNoWriMo: Stop with the Waffling!

This originally appeared on the #amwriting site a couple years ago, but bears repeating.

No More Waffling about NaNo by JC Rosen

Photo by TheCulinaryGeek

November 1st is just around the corner, a mere handful of days away. For wrimos, Halloween / Samhain is spent in anxious anticipation of the stroke of midnight. Wrimos spending this time alone talk to themselves, coaching themselves to jump through that midnight gate with vigor. Those at write-ins with other wrimos? Well, they experience a group dynamic I like to call hooting crazitude. (Come on. It’s fun to say.)

You – yes, you – can still be caught up in the excitement that is NaNo. Have you been compiling pro and con lists? Perhaps you think you just don’t have time for it. Maybe the idea of writing that much in one month is too daunting to contemplate. Are you in the midst of a work-in-progress and simply don’t wish to step away from it to start something new? Do you sigh and wistfully say you just can’t do it?

There are so many reasons people state to explain why they don’t want to do NaNo. Don’t get me wrong: I respect another’s choice in the matter. A simple “I don’t want to do it” makes me nod and back off. NaNo’s not for everyone. It is, however, for many people who think it can’t work for them.

  • The spirits of encouragement and camaraderie during NaNo are not to be underestimated. Put those on your pro list and underline them for emphasis. Whether you’re in it to be utterly nuts and compile a novel full of “plot bunnies” and challenges (see nanowrimo.org Forums for more info) or you’re working on a more conventionally legitimate project, you’ll find people ready to support you and keep you going.
  • The NaNo Rebels group is going strong again this year. Check out this link about NaNo Rebels on the nanowrimo.org site for official info about the Rebels. If you’re in the middle of a WIP and don’t want to set it aside, write nonfiction, or write in formats other than novel-sized ones, you can participate by being a NaNo Rebel. The goal is the same: 50k new words on your project(s).
  • Consider setting a different goal for yourself. No one says you have to write 50k words. No, you won’t “officially win” NaNo by writing 20k words. You may write your heart out during the hours you have available, though. You may be pushing yourself in ways you never have in order to reach the goal you set for yourself. That’s NaNo, baby!

The whole point of NaNoWriMo is to push yourself and just write. Gag and tie up that inner editor who makes you go over everything you write as you write it. Just. Write. No matter what, it’s a great exercise for anyone who gets into ruts because of that inner editor. If you need to set a different goal for word count, no matter. The exercise and purpose for it are the same.

So no more waffling! Whether you’re a pantster, a plotter or somewhere in between, it’s time to stock the cabinets with food for easy meals and snacks, get your favorite source of caffeine ready and clean off your writing space. (Trust me, it’ll become cluttered enough during November.)

Write on, wrimo!

I have done NaNoWriMo for several years. It’s a huge reason I began writing after a 15-year hiatus. On the NaNo site as JC_Rosen (isn’t that clever?), I’m open to buddy listing. I usually use the #NaNo hashtag in addition to #amwriting during November. Join us! We do sprints. Progress measurement is up to you.

#NaNoWriMo: Writing Prep


Writing Prep by JC Rosen


With NaNoWriMo less than two weeks away, our heroine thought it might be helpful to share some tools. They can be used for any project, of course. Some may work for you, some may not. Just as we all learn differently, we all approach our projects differently. As an example, clustering only works for me as I unsnarl a plot point rather than for huge swaths of plotting. I tried the method and learned how to label it for my writing toolbox. Other methods have been tossed aside when they didn’t work for me at all.

I’m a hybrid, neither pantser nor plotter. I call my prep process “outlining,” but that’s a misnomer. My outlines are basic and very loose. I use the outline to describe story and character arcs in general terms. I also input bits of research I don’t want to lose in the process. I fill in a spreadsheet of characters’ information as I go. Okay, I *try* to do that.

While I may explore major plot points and characters more deeply using other methods, I don’t do the intense planning many do. There are times I wish I did. Most of the time, I’m grateful for allowing the story and characters to wander into places I didn’t know existed in the story’s landscape. Secondary characters take on whole lives. It never fails, and thank heavens for it. As such, I don’t plot so tightly there’s no room for breathing within the structure of the writing.

Johanna Harness, founder of #amwriting on Twitter (archives for the site), explores many plotting methods. Her blog and YouTube channel are often my go-to for inspiration. Her info is always accessible and useful. I’ll share a couple as well as some other plotting methods.


Clustering:  Johanna first suggested clustering for a snarled up short story because of the effects of my migraines on my writing. I can go full tilt writing with a migraine, but cannot plot or edit for beans. She sees clustering as a right brain/left brain processing difference. To do it, one uses (*gasp*) a pen and paper, drawing bubbles of thoughts all over the page, willy-nilly. I found it helpful when I had a migraine, though mine looked more like a flowchart. I guess I just think too linearly. Check out Johanna’s blog article as well as her video (embedded on page) for more on clustering.


Snowflake Method: Known as “The Snowflake Guy,” Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method for novel writing is immensely popular. He calls his process “designing a novel.” Take a look at this article which is full of interesting ideas. As no two novels are exactly alike, no two snowflakes are, either. The article teaches how to design a novel which is perfectly individual. Please read the whole article for full impact.


Phase Drafting:  This article by Lazette Gifford, It’s Just a Phase, is from 2003. It’s no less helpful today. Lazette’s ideas about outlining a project are fresh and inspiring. She leaves room for growth and fleshing out the story. Don’t miss this one.


Big Board Planning: This is one of my favorite methods. It’s another by Johanna Harness and you can see the video about it. Do you organize your ideas on note cards or post-it notes? (Do you think you should, but don’t?) I started the post-it note habit when Johanna turned me on to Big Board Planning. It’s as simple as taking a large poster board and putting your cards or post-its on the board. It’s handy for juggling bits of your story, putting them together like a puzzle, or for putting reminders amid the storyline notes. I use a tri-fold poster board so I can fold it up and put it somewhere safe. Johanna shares ideas on how to organize using colors and placements. Scrivener has a version of this, but I like it being tactile.


There are plenty of methods to try. Read about each you find and glean which bits might work for you. You may end up – probably will end up! – creating an entirely new method, one based solely upon your needs as a writer. With NaNo breathing down my neck, I’ll be trying new combinations of tools. I may use clustering to get the basic outline of plot points figured out. (Bet it still looks like a flowchart.) I’ll use a spreadsheet for data on each character’s physical and personality characteristics. Big Boarding may help me if I get stuck during November.

Who knows? Anything can happen during NaNo!


Interested in adding me as a writing buddy on the NaNoWriMo site? Please do! I’m JC_Rosen. (clever, huh?)





photo credit: Simply Bike via photopin cc

#FlashFiction: See How They Fall (Conclusion)

<– start at Part One


JC Rosen, See How They Fall


Molly, still done up all girlie and sweet, sat on a divan with Sylvia. George – no, wait, Arnie – took a wingback facing him.

A door he hadn’t noticed opened above the bookcases and a woman stepped in. The door and the staircase leading down were the same shell color as the wall, so she seemed to float along the wall down into the library. Her gauzy gown flowed around her. She appeared somewhat older, her thin face pinched as it pointed at him. “I told you he wouldn’t recognize me,” she announced to the others. Recognize her?

Michelle went to the older woman, perhaps a handful of years older than Rich. The woman stroked Michelle’s cheek tenderly. “You’ve done all you promised and then some. Such service will not go unrewarded, my dear.” Michelle seemed to tip her head slightly and step away. The woman came toward Rich and stood out of reach. Close enough for him to examine her features.

He went still. “Pamela?” he whispered.

The woman’s eyebrows shot up. “So you do remember me. Do you remember what you did to me?”

Memories, hidden from his awareness all these years, buffeted Rich’s mind. Pamela, darling and so pliable as his girlfriend at Ithaca College. He knew she was looking for an MRS degree, her goal being marriage rather than an education. School was merely an excuse. He filled the bill, but only to a point. Her family was reasonably comfortable, but not the high and mighty he wanted. Still, her grandfather and father attended Dartmouth Law, his dream. It didn’t take much to convince her father to write a glowing recommendation for the clean cut, devoted boyfriend. He even gave Rich his Dartmouth ring with his blessings. Rich realized absently he was twisting that ring around his finger.

“Pamela Lightner?” He shook his head. “Wait, how are you Miss Stemple?”

Pamela sighed theatrically. “You paid close attention, didn’t you? Stemple was my mother’s maiden name, Rich.” Her eyes narrowed. “My middle name.”  She turned away from him, her gown fluttering, to address the assembled. Her conspirators. “Oh yes, he paid attention. Paid attention to my father’s Dartmouth connections, to my good name, even to my future. When he proposed – that’s right, he proposed to marry me – I gave him everything.”

She closed her eyes and went very quiet, not moving but for the shaking of her hands, barely visible in the folds of her dress. “Rich pulled away quickly once accepted at Dartmouth.” He separated his hands, letting go of the ring, and rested them in his lap. “My sorority sisters shunned me after he dumped me. After all, I was tarnished. They at least married their lovers. Oh, I’ve been invited to all the balls and charity events. At least, my checkbook has.” Pamela hissed. “Acceptance into their society, though? Never. Sacrificed on the altar of Richard Brandt’s ambition.” When she turned back to Rich, her lip curled.

A vague memory niggled at him. Quietly, he spoke in her silence. “I was sorry to hear about your parents, Pamela.”

Her eyes widened and she paled. “How dare you? Even now, you use everything you can against me? Where was your sympathy when they were killed? Did you so much as call after their accident?” Abruptly, tears trailed down her cheeks and she sobbed briefly, one hand covering her eyes. “Of course not. You were busy with your goals: a career, a rich wife.” She dropped her hand and bent toward him, tears highlighting the crazy in her gaze. “Poor Pamela, too lowly for Richard Brandt. Used and discarded.” She whirled away, dismissing him.

In a sudden change of tone, she laughed. “Too lowly. Joke’s on you, Richard. Daddy invested well, taking a chance on some tech industries early on. Microsoft ring a bell? Apple? He made sure I had the best of everything, including stock market advice. There is more money than even you ever dreamed of having. My life became a gilded prison.” Rich shut his eyes. So close. He had been so close.

“May I, Pamela?” Michelle asked, raising a hand.

“By all means, darling.” Pamela touched Michelle’s fingers lightly as though handing off in a game. She draped herself in a vacant loveseat, crossing her legs and peering at him with a vicious smile.

Michelle came to him. Bracing herself with hands on the arms of his chair, she lowered her face to his. Her breath misted against his ear as she spoke against his cheek. “You had your fun, didn’t you, Rich? With Miss Stemple. With me. Now it’s our turn. You’re getting screwed royally.” When she laughed lightly, Rich lost it. He grabbed her by the waist and surged out of the chair, throwing her to the Persian rug. In seconds, he was smashed back into his chair, meaty hands on his chest. George’s dumpiness turned out to be Arnie’s protective brawn. Rich gasped for air while Michelle rose, laughing.

As she told the tale, Rich envisioned it clearly. Pamela sat at a juice bar at the club. Straining to listen to whispers about her, she overheard a former sorority sister. “The Vengeance Vixen did it all. Cost a bit, but got me everything. Prenup? What prenup?” The woman and her friend laughed as they left, unaware of the seed planted. Ironically, Pamela’s research for this vixen used the same technology which raised her beyond Rich’s league.

“I knew Miss Stemple was searching for me, but I was working a project,” continued Michelle.

Pamela interrupted. “When I opened the envelope and found the card with Michelle’s name on it, I knew immediately who she was. No mention of her nickname, just her name and no number. An elegant introduction, don’t you think?” She nodded to Sylvia. “Your turn, I believe.” Michelle raised her chin slightly, but yielded the floor.

Sylvia cleared her throat and sat up straight. “You’re an asshole, Rich.” She laughed with everyone but Rich. “So good to get that out finally!” Apparently, according to Sylvia, she was an assistant and not a secretary. “Do this, fetch that. You were supposed to be teaching me, mentoring me for advancement, not treating me like some girl Friday. I was the joke of the company.”

“Why didn’t you talk with me, Sylvia?” Rich asked, surprised at how calm his voice sounded.

“Like that would have done any good. No, Miss Stemple’s stipend and promise of retribution kept me with you.” She leaned forward as she explained. Rich leaned back, taking it in. Sylvia was with him for several years.

He looked to Pamela, then to Michelle. Pamela was the crazy, but Michelle was the source. “How long?”

She grinned. “Oh, at least three years. Long before you quit smoking.” Her eyes shone merrily.

Before he… oh no. No. The enormity of this plot finally began to sink in. His head dropped wearily.

Michelle rose and stalked toward him. “Miss Stemple was too lowly for you? You’ve no idea how lowly you are now. Not yet, anyway.” He saw the pointy tips of her boots near his Italian loafers. “Raise your head and look at me, Richard Brandt!”

When he met her eyes, he knew he was lost. They were dark and flat, a menace within them he’d never seen in her, in anyone. A shiver passed through him and he looked away, looked at Molly. Michelle followed his gaze. “Oh, Molly? Yes, she’s been your attorney for what, two years now?”

“About that,” Molly piped up, grinning. “Right about the time your previous attorney at that firm retired early.” Rich nodded, remembering vaguely how jealous he had been. “With a nudge from Miss Stemple, the partners gave me his clients. I led you to Arnie’s accounting more easily than expected, too.”

With an exaggerated and so-fake tone, “George” drawled, “Oh man, you handed over the keys to your groovy kingdom. I had so much fun with your stock portfolio, duuuude.” He chuckled.

Rich all but spat, “You obviously already destroyed me with all this. Why go so far as corporate espionage with the fire, for God’s sake?” Rich rose and began to stalk the room. Michelle stilled Arnie with a headshake when he made to put Rich in his chair again.

Michelle’s words brought Rich up short. Quietly, she said with a shrug, “Why not? The espionage would just put you in a country club for a prison. How long do you think you’ll last in a real one?”

Chill tendrils trailed down Rich’s spine. “You’re all mad!” he cried.

“Angry perhaps, but not quite mad,” Arnie put in.

Vengeance Vixen, she was called. Years of plotting, who knows how much spent on his destruction? He slumped. “You maneuvered well, even holding my bail,” he conceded.

“Miss Stemple is the proud owner of your freedom on that count.” He looked over at Pamela, whose eyes glittered with hatred.

“Are you thinking of running away, Rich?” she asked acidly. “I suppose you could try, but how would you get away from here?” She was right. Even if he could get out the door, he had no transportation and the location was remote. He had no money, either. They’d seen to that. His legs were shaky when he returned to his chair and dropped his head into his hands for a moment.

Looking up, looking around at them, he felt lost. “What now?” Only then did he see Pamela fondling a small plastic bag with several cigarette butts in it. His eyes widened, hands tingling. “You … you can’t be serious. Haven’t you done enough?”

There was general laughter, but Pamela’s was a crazed cackle. She handed the baggie to Michelle, who strode back to him and dangled it before him just out of reach. “We’re not monsters, Rich. We decided to put you out of your misery.”

She waved her hand and they rose. Molly and Sylvia murmured a goodbye as they passed him. Arnie actually patted his shoulder and said, “It’s been groovy, man,” and then laughed as he left.

Pamela stopped before him.  Her voice was cutting. “You earned this, Richard. Your legacy will be shameful, heartless, and selfish. You will be remembered as the bastard you are.” Turning, she said in a sweet tone, “He’s all yours, Michelle.” Without so much as a farewell, she left.

He couldn’t see exactly what Michelle was doing as she crouched near the fireplace. He boggled at what she left behind as she came to him. A wicker tray with the cigarette butts smoldered on a metal frame above a bowl of some sort of liquid. He saw other butts scattered near the back of the stone fireplace. She stroked his cheek with a gentleness not reflected in her gaze. “Take care, Rich. We’ll watch for a bit, so don’t do anything stupid, okay? There’s a good boy.”

He stared at the fire when the wicker caught, listening to her heels click on the parquet foyer floor before the big door slammed shut.



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#FridayFlash: See How They Fall (Part Five)

<– start at Part One

 JC Rosen, See How They Fall

Rich sat in the generic chair in his suite at the Hyatt. Only then did he realize he rode back from the restaurant in George’s old Audi without feeling self-conscious. Body blows, each mysterious revelation by Molly and especially Michelle. “Be there at eight,” Michelle said. The address on the card she gave him indicated an exclusive area outside of Georgetown, way out of his budget even when he had a budget. He shook his head, but the pieces of the puzzle still didn’t quite fit together.

His phone buzzed on the table. “You say you quit smoking some time ago?” Kitterick sounded jovial, skipping a polite greeting. “Very interesting. I’m eager to hear how you explain your DNA on the cigarette butts we found at the fire.” Click. Holy hell. His DNA? Rich shivered, twisting the Dartmouth ring, a cold sweat beading his upper lip.

He was getting railroaded, but his normal mental agility was sprained. His DNA at the fire. Brandt and Associates, BandA, stealing his own deal. All that work on the Stemple project down the drain. Insurance? That was a dream. He looked around, wondering if the Hyatt was now beyond his means. Maybe George had a spare room. He barked a hoarse laugh, splashed some vodka in a plastic cup, and downed it.

As seven o’clock approached, Rich decided to face whatever was coming with his usual strengths. A fresh shower and suit helped him set his own stage. No more vodka, though it was tempting. He needed a clear head. At the half hour mark, he made his way to the lobby with long strides, a man with a purpose. George pulled up, his ride to Michelle’s place, and Rich pretended the Audi was a glittering chariot taking him to the arena.

“So what’s going on, man? Michelle’s got something brewing, sounds like.” George’s attempt at conversation didn’t fit Rich’s image of himself at the moment. No small talk for him. George soon dropped it and just drove.

They pulled into a circular driveway before a stone … well, demi-mansion was all Rich could call it. Huge, three stories, but fit into a smallish plot of land near other similarly well-appointed houses. More like edifices. Rich stopped and looked around at the neighborhood, each home lit up in the growing darkness. “Come on, man. We’re going to be late.”

It didn’t occur to Rich that George invited himself until Michelle opened the thick oak door and wrapped her arms around George’s neck, standing on her toes to give him a quick kiss. She wrinkled her nose. “At least you’ll be able to get rid of that beard finally, Arnie.” George laughed and squeezed her in a hug. Rich stared at them, his self image drooping.

“We’re being rude, Arnie,” Michelle announced in a silky voice. “Do come in, both of you. I told a little white lie, Rich. This isn’t my home per se. It belongs to my client. Miss Stemple wanted to be sure you’d answer the summons.”

Summons, was it? Rich stiffened his shoulders and lifted his chin. No one summoned him. They invited, he accepted. “I’m here, so let’s get on with this charade. Or are we unraveling one?” Michelle’s smile was slow, but her eyes were cold. Not at all his Michelle. This Michelle dressed in stiletto boots and a short skirt. His Michelle wore flouncy skirts and chunky high heels, pretty blouses, all flowers and light perfume. No, this was not his Michelle. Apparently, it wasn’t his George, either.

He followed Michelle through a foyer with a huge floral arrangement on an antique round table in the center. They entered a large room, a well stocked library. Familiar faces grinned at him, some nearly leering with anticipation. Gritting his teeth, he sat in a wingback chair as Michelle indicated.

“Please, make yourself comfortable, Rich,” she told him. Yeah. Comfortable. That would happen.



Conclusion scheduled for posting next Friday!






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